Sister Plants Provide Clean Water at Revolutionary War Battleground

The Jumping Brook Water Treatment Plant used tube settlers to drive down turbidity and earn a 15-year Directors Award from the Partnership for Safe Water.
Sister Plants Provide Clean Water at Revolutionary War Battleground
Chlorine levels are checked regularly at the facility (titrator by Evoqua Water Technologies).

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High-quality drinking water is so taken for granted now that it’s hard to imagine the lack of good water affecting a Revolutionary War battle.

Sixteen miles northwest of Neptune Township in central New Jersey lies the 1,800-acre Monmouth Battlefield State Park. On June 28, 1778, Gen. George Washington and the Continental Army ambushed the British there and fought them to a standstill.

That may not sound like much to brag about, but it was a turning point in the American Revolution and water played a role. The highly disciplined British army had beaten the Continental Army almost every time. But over the winter of 1777-’78 at Valley Forge near Philadelphia, Washington’s army had drilled and practiced to become a formidable force.

The 11,000-man British army had abandoned Philadelphia, marching northeast across New Jersey to catch transport ships to take them to safety in New York. Washington and his newly trained force harassed the redcoats, burned bridges, and filled wells and creeks with the bodies of horses and soldiers to make the water unusable. The intense summer heat and lack of good water caused men to drop on both sides, but the American Army stiffened and showed the British they could fight.

Now, residents of Monmouth and Ocean counties have plenty of good water, thanks to the 30 mgd coming from the Jumping Brook Water Treatment Plant in Neptune Township and its sister facility, the 36 mgd Swimming River Water Treatment Plant in Colts Neck. These plants are part of the American Water family of facilities in New Jersey, the largest state in American Water’s regulated operations.

In 2016, the Jumping Brook plant, owned by New Jersey American Water, received a 15-year Directors Award from the Partnership for Safe Water.

Seasonal demand

Matt Walsh is production supervisor at Jumping Brook, and Patricia Ramsden is manager of what is known as the Coastal North system, which includes the Jumping Brook and Swimming River plants. Walsh comes from a water operations background. He has 25 years in the water business, and is going on 15 years with American Water.

“Between Jumping Brook and Swimming River, we service 366,000 customers,” Walsh says. The influx of summer tourists visiting the Jersey shore has a dramatic effect on demand.

The Jumping Brook plant takes its name from the nearby stream running on the property that was used as a raw water supply in the past. The original plant, which dates back to 1901, belonged to Monmouth Consolidated Water. “It was on the same property we now occupy, but in a different location,” Walsh says. “Jumping Brook runs out back. The original plant took water from that stream.”

Stable source

That stream can’t provide nearly enough water now, so the facility buys source water from the New Jersey Water Supply Authority. That water is stored in Glendola Reservoir about a mile and a half from the plant.

“Glendola Reservoir is basically a big tank in the ground. It’s pumped storage,” says Walsh. “It’s in Wall Township and feeds the plant via gravity. We have a limnologist who comes in and does all the analytics on the reservoir. He monitors everything from bacteria to biological growth. He provides information and recommendations for things we can do to maintain source quality.

“We have air blowers in the reservoir. At certain times of the year we’ll turn them on and off to help control algae formation and keep the water moving. It’s a great advantage. The limnologist is very familiar with our reservoirs. He tells us when we have odor-forming bacteria. By observing temperature and weather, he’ll tell us when he thinks that’s going to subside.”

If the taste and odor become a problem, powdered activated carbon can be fed into the raw water main. “Just recently we installed source water monitoring,” Walsh says.

With source water quality under increasing challenges, American Water has installed monitoring capability at all its facilities. The turbidity of raw water coming from the reservoir ranges from 2 to 5 NTU. The water supply authority fills the reservoir on the side opposite of where Jumping Brook takes its raw water feed.

Upgrading technology

“The Jumping Brook plant is unique,” says Walsh. “We have what we call the old plant and the new plant. The old plant has two Aldrich purification units that date from the 1960s and can treat about 5 mgd each. In the 1980s, a growing population pushed the plant to expand, and the plant added four solids-contact clarifiers from Infilco Degremont (SUEZ) that can produce 5 mgd each, bringing total capacity to 30 mgd.
“It’s tricky when you’re an operator here,” says Walsh. “You have two different animals to contend with. Both process trains feed into the same clearwell, but they’re separate processes.”

The Aldrich units are referred to as all-in-one units. They take water into a center ring and mix it with chlorine gas as an oxidizer.

“We have evaporators,” says Walsh. “We take liquid chlorine and turn it into gaseous chlorine. We feed so much chlorine that, if we were to feed the gas directly off the cylinder, we would freeze the line. We added tube settlers to the purification units. Settled water turbidity was around 1 NTU. With the introduction of the tube settlers, we now have 0.1 NTU.

“This greatly enhances our filter runtimes and our filter lives. We’re putting a lot less turbid water on top of the filters with the introduction of the tube settlers, so we don’t have to wash the filters as often.”

The four solids-contact filters are in a separate building from the Aldrich units. Walsh describes them as temperamental: “If you quickly increase the flow through them, the solids could spill over onto the top of the filters. You have to be gentle with them.”

Both plants pretreat with chlorine and use polyaluminum chloride as a coagulant. Then they settle solids, adding polymer to speed settling. Going into the clearwell, the water is dosed with chlorine fluoride and a corrosion inhibitor. “We went to chloramines three years ago because of the trihalomethanes,” Walsh says.

Always learning

The Jumping Brook and Swimming River plants each have four operators who work rotating shifts to staff their plants 24 hours a day. The two plants are in the same American Water operating unit and work closely together. Six maintenance mechanics are available to the two plants from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The plants also share seven operator/maintenance/mechanics who float between them, working rotating 24-hour shifts. They fill in for operators in addition to performing minor maintenance.
Six of the plant operators hold New Jersey T1 (entry-level) water plant operator licenses. Ten hold T2 licenses, three hold T3 licenses, and two hold T4 licenses, the state’s highest level of certification.

The higher certification operators hold, the more training contact hours (TCHs) they must get to maintain their licenses. TCH requirements must be fulfilled every three years. Operators can get some TCHs in-house, but must also go elsewhere for other training.

Because they handle chlorine, the facility is under New Jersey Toxic Catastrophe Prevention Act regulations, which require specialized training for all staff members. Because the facility is not owned by a municipality, it also falls under OSHA rules, and that drives mandatory training. For example, employees must take a 40-hour Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response training course when they start the job and an eight-hour refresher every year.

Staying safe

Walsh notes that American Water is an extremely safety-conscious company. “I do weekly tailgate talks on safety, and we have a near-miss reports hotline that anybody can call. In addition, everyone has the ability to stop work for safety. If employees see something, they can say something. They know that I care about each and every one of them as persons. They know I want them to go home safe at night.

“It’s funny,” Walsh adds. “When you wear an American Water shirt and you’re out and about in the public, you find that people have questions for you. Sometimes they think the water falls out of the sky and it miraculously falls into their faucet. But when you sit down with them and you’re enthusiastic, like the majority of our employees are, you can have a conversation with people. And by the end of the conversation, they’re saying, ‘Wow, I didn’t know that went on.’”

Ready for the worst

After Hurricane Sandy hit the eastern U.S., Matt Walsh learned a lesson about the need for water treatment plant reliability.

The storm hit in late October 2012. “Our whole beach area, which is a barrier island, was devastated,” recalls Walsh, production supervisor at the Jumping Brook Water Treatment Plant. “There were houses in the street. There were services and no houses. It was a big to-do — years of construction. Our water towers survived, but there were no services available. The town was wiped out.”

The Jumping Brook and Swimming River water plants were far enough inland to be spared the worst impacts. “We experienced high winds,” says Walsh. “We had two small generators and some emergency power, but what we could do with them was limited. We have a natural gas pump and a diesel pump that could supply about 8 million gallons during a power outage. When the power is out for an extended time, we can bring in 30 mgd, but we can only put out 8 mgd.”

Recently the plant completed final testing of a 1.75 MW diesel generator (Mitsubishi engine, KOHLER generator). “So now, we can power every one of our pumps in the event of a power outage and put 30 mgd out the door,” says Walsh.

Hurricane Irene also affected all of New Jersey and flooded the area of the Swimming River Reservoir. The high water also affected source water quality. But many of American Water’s plants are interconnected, and they can cross-support each other.


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